Sanctioned Russian Ship Connected to North Korean Arms Transfers Docked in China

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.25 - 2024 9:45 AM CET

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Photo: Seafarers on X
Photo: Seafarers on X
A Russian cargo ship implicated in transferring North Korean arms to Russia is currently moored at a Chinese shipyard, according to satellite images.

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China is providing moorage for a U.S.-sanctioned Russian cargo ship implicated in North Korean arms transfers to Russia, according to satellite images obtained by Reuters.

The ship, identified as the Russian vessel Angara, has been anchored at a Chinese shipyard in eastern Zhejiang province since February 2024. The vessel is suspected of transporting thousands of containers of North Korean munitions to Russia, particularly since August 2023, when it started making trips to Russian ports.

A ship, identified by the RUSI as the North Korean cargo ship Angara, is seen docked in China (Photo: Reuters on X))

Russian Ship at Chinese Port

Britain's Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank noted that the Angara had moved "thousands of containers believed to contain North Korean munitions" and had been conducting deliveries between the North Korean port of Rajin and Russian ports.

RUSI has been tracking the ship's movements as part of its project to monitor North Korea's sanctions evasion networks. Satellite images from Earth imaging firm Planet Labs PBC confirm the Angara's presence in China.

Joseph Byrne, a research fellow with RUSI, noted, "If it lets [the Angara] sail out of port uninspected and newly repaired, then it shows China likely won't take any action on these Russian vessels."

He suggested that China's government should be aware of the U.S.-sanctioned vessel's presence at its shipyard.

U.S. Response and Diplomatic Concerns

The cooperation between Russia, China, and North Korea is seen as "antithetical" to U.S. security interests in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, according to Kurt Campbell, the State Department's second-ranked diplomat.

He remarked, "Washington would not 'sit by' if Beijing increased its backing for Moscow."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to address China's support for Russia during his visit to Beijing this week. The U.S. has privately warned Russia against deploying new nuclear weapons in space and has expressed concerns about China's assistance to Moscow's war in Ukraine.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson mentioned that the U.S. had raised the issue of the Angara with Chinese authorities and called on all UN member states to fulfill their obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2397, which restricts trade with North Korea and requires member states to de-register vessels involved in illicit activities.

China's Response

China's embassy in Washington stated that it was not aware of the details related to the Angara but emphasized that China "always opposes unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law or mandate from the Security Council."

China's foreign ministry also noted that it had no information about the matter.

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